The following blog is the fifth of 11 dedicated to providing an overview of the No-Nonsense Nurturer leader behaviors in anticipation of CT3’s summer leadership workshops. We hope to support all leaders with behaviors essential for every organization.
The No-Nonsense Nurturer® Leader:
- Models humility
- Sets high expectations
- Creates a culture of coaching
- Builds collective efficacy
- Recognizes and develops growth mindsets, always striving to be asset based
- Solicits voice and perspective
- Generates culture (and systems) of accountability
- Builds trusting relationships
- Commits to being an anti-racist
Building teacher efficacy is one of the most important components to ensuring student success. I’m reminded of this whenever I reflect on my time as a principal. Our leadership team inherited a school that experienced trauma for about two decades as the United States declared war on Black communities and called it the “War on Drugs.” Most directly, in the eighteen months before my arrival, our students experienced a school as an open-air drug market, a mercury spill (which caused displacement), and the murder of a classmate in the school cafeteria. These realities caused me to ask, “Where are all the adults?” and “How could we let this happen to children?”
The work to provide better opportunities for our students was too urgent to waste time. We had to strategize ways to get some quick wins and change the mindset of what we could achieve as a community. We created grade-level academies, which allowed us to break down challenges into bite-size morsels to be “chunked and chewed.” Teachers were savvy in their requests to work specific grade levels and courses (ones that didn’t take the district standardized tests). I decided to recruit specific teachers for the tenth-grade academy.
The first step in making a real change was to build a “coalition of the willing.” These teachers, like me, saw opportunity when others saw obstacles. While they were not the most experienced (many were first- through third-year teachers; only one vet decided to join us), they believed we could make a change. With this high level of will and the resources in place to train and support them, our teaching staff was able to bring our standardized test scores up by 24 and 27 points in two short years. Scholars began to hold a level of pride in their successes, and they created expectations and a pact to ensure they graduated twice as many scholars as the class before them. These successes lead to many articles, interviews, promotions, and awards.
When asked how I transformed the narrative of the school, I quickly reminded my district leaders that it was a collective win. We transformed our school because we knew what many didn’t. We knew our teachers would do anything for our scholars. Our teachers, in turn, knew there was nothing I wouldn’t do for them. My chancellor was pleasantly surprised when I said, “Chancellor, my teachers work for their children, I work for my teachers … and frankly, I think you should be working for me!” This turned into a quick yet robust conversation about the need for a paradigm shift in how many people look at education. To establish a belief in all our teachers that they have the authority, capacity, and opportunity to be innovative in providing a high-quality education for the children they work for is a game changer. Teachers will walk into classrooms believing “my students will win because they have me as a teacher!”
As a leader, you may wonder what you can do to build teacher efficacy to run through “brick walls” mentality. Here’s a short list of conditions you should provide to them:
- Prioritize teacher influence: Make sure they see themselves in the decision-making around curriculum, assessment, and data.
- Advertise goal consensus: Teachers must all know the direction and desired outcomes. As the leader, you must keep this consistently in front of your teachers (be the compass).
- Keep everyone informed: It’s your job to create processes for teachers to inform one another about the work each of them is doing.
- Build a cohesive staff: One of your titles is “Cheerleader in Chief.” You must always sow seeds that build team, consistency, fairness, and clarity of communication.
- Be responsive: Remember, teachers work for students; you work for teachers.
- Prioritize RTI: You must support your classrooms with effective systems of intervention. This allows your teachers to always bring students back to their education if you’re supporting their system of accountability.
In the spirit of transparency, I would not recommend keeping this strategy away from your teaching staff. Explain exactly what you’re doing and why. This will communicate to teachers that you believe in their ability to provide high-quality instruction to scholars and that you are there to support that in every way you possibly can. When you make the concept of collective teacher efficacy known to your staff, trust, respect, and collaboration grow.
Secondly, in the spirit of building trust, model what you want to see in your teaching staff. Take some calculated risks, communicate what you’re doing and why, encourage the same behaviors from your staff. Keep the goal in front of them the entire time, as it will be a constant North Star in the work. If we all enter leadership with the understanding that our jobs are to be of service to our teaching staff, we can restore the pride and respect for the nation’s most important profession, and we will have earned the ability to hold high expectations of our teaching staff. Mandates without resources equal revolution.